Textus Receptus – Default Text or Chosen Text?

In Tall Tales of Textual Criticism, Textual Myths by Chris Thomas2 Comments

One of the oft made claims of a popular apologist in evangelical circles is that the Reformers did not choose the Textus Receptus, but that they used it because they had no other options. Is that true? Were there no other Greek New Testaments during the Reformation apart from the Textus Receptus? Let’s see.

The Complutensian Polyglot

In 1514 the New Testament of the Complutensian Polyglot was printed beating Erasmus’ GNT by 2 years. Now if the TR was the default text of the Reformation, then the GNT of the CP should match the TR. Does it? No. If you compare Mt 6:13 in the TR & the CP you will find “οτι σου εστιν η βασιλεια καιη δυναμις και η δοξα εις τους αιωνας” missing from the CP. Calvin comments on this in his commentary on Matthew:

For thine is the kingdom It is surprising that this clause, which agrees so well with the rest of the prayer, has been left out by the Latins: for it was not added merely for the purpose of kindling our hearts to seek the glory of God, and of reminding us what ought to be the object of our prayers; but likewise to teach us, that our prayers, which are here dictated to us, are founded on God alone, that we may not rely on our own merits.

The Colines GNT 1534

But it is also known that Calvin, before using the TR used the Colines 1534 GNT which is considered to be a precursor to the modern Critical Text. And later he abandoned it for the Textus Receptus.  Dr. Jeffrey Riddle goes into detail on this and other issues in his speech delivered at Houston Baptist University in February 2016, John Calvin & Textual Criticism

Codex Vaticanus

It is well known that Erasmus not only had access to reading from Vaticanus, but that he rejected Vaticanus in part as he considered it to have been back-translated from the Vulgate in certain places. In other words, the foundation text of NA28/UBS5 was rejected by Erasmus as corrupt. The Reformers did not disagree with Erasmus’ judgement of Vaticanus.  Erasmus Myths & Codex Vaticanus

Stephanus 1550 Editio Regia

In 1550, Stephanus published the 3rd edition of his Greek New Testament.  It was printed in a beautiful Greek font and contains marginal readings.  These marginal readings are important because they reflect where the “Majority Text” differs from the Textus Receptus.  And yet, the Reformers chose the Textus Receptus over the marginal readings in all but a few places.

In conclusion, the next time you hear the claim that the Textus Receptus is the default text of the Reformation because they had no other choice, remember that like most claims by Critical Text Advocates it is hot air.


  1. The Textus Receptus and the Majority Text may differ a little, but which one was John Burgon referring to when he spoke of the Traditional Text? And why does he equate this Traditional Text with readings of the Authorised Version?

  2. But James White always says, in every presentation he makes on the textual issue, that Erasmus would have loved to have used Vaticanus, but he couldn’t get access to it; that Erasmus would agree with modern “scholars” in advocating for its use/priority. He continues to make this assertion, extant correspondence between him and the Vatican librarian concerning known variants in Vaticanus notwithstanding? In reality, Erasmus was well aquatinted with Vaticanus and rejected it as a corrupt text, as did all the believing textual scholars of his generation.

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